Have you heard about or experienced synesthesia, the neurological phenomenon where senses are cross-wired? Imagine that when you look at the Washington Monument, you hear the musical note “G.” Or that Wednesdays are the color red. Or that listening to “Eleanor Rigby” tastes like blueberries. People who experience synesthesia tell of this kind of mysterious integration of their experience of the world. Hidden connections are revealed.
The ancient Israelites, it seems, were synesthetes. Lucky them. The Torah describes their visceral experience of Revelation at Mount Sinai: “All the people saw the thunder…” (Exodus 20:15).
Whatever you believe about the nature of how the Torah was given, can you imagine feeling such a profound moment of connection, where all of the synapses of the universe seem to snap together? Where everything slots into place in a way that it changes how you experience the world?
The Chassidic Berdichever Rebbe describes the moment as having become so real in the lives of the people, that it affected a fundamental change in sensory perception. Everything comes into focus.
Hidden connections are all around us.
Nature, it seems, works similarly. Sometimes charged particles on the ground and in the sky randomly find each other, and jump across space and time, connecting in a burst of electricity. The result? Thunder and lightning. Today, scientists really don’t know how this works. It’s still a mystery. But that doesn’t make it less real.
That’s what Shavuot needs to be this year – a chance again to try to grasp at some of these hidden connections. We bridge the physical distance between us with the sparks of learning Torah all night long.